Aimee Stephens died yesterday at age 59. She was unsure whether the Supreme Court will decide her case as planned on Thursday and if she would live to hear the decision.
In 2013, Stephens told her employer that she was going to transition to female and was subsequently fired two weeks later from her job at a funeral home in Michigan. Represented by the ACLU, she then sued her former employer for sex discrimination, a case that, last fall, became the first major transgender rights case to receive a full hearing at the Supreme Court.
Stephens, who long suffered from kidney disease, died today and will not be able to hear the decision of her case, which is supposed to be decided on Thursday. In addition to suffering from health issues, Stephens struggled financially after losing her job. Her wife set up a GoFundMe for help with covering Stephens’ hospice care and funeral expenses.
Stephens lost the job she loved and excelled at because she came out as trans, and she and her family were forced to ask for public support to cover her end-of-life care. The legal justice she sought is not guaranteed since the Supreme Court has a 5-4 conservative advantage.
The struggle Stephens faced is a familiar one in cases of discrimination in the U.S., particularly amongst transgender people. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, trans people are three times more likely to be unemployed than their cisgender peers. Additionally, according to the same report, 29% of trans people live in poverty and 1 in 5 trans people in the U.S. will experience homelessness in their lifetimes.
Stephens’ case could affect all people in the U.S. who face workplace discrimination because of their gender identity, including millions of transgender individuals. Regardless of the decision on Thursday, Aimee Stephens’ case will forever alter the future of LGBTQIA+ discrimination cases going forward.
Sources: Vox 05/08/20, Daily Beast 05/11/20, 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, Advocate 05/08/20